Be prepared to fail.
When ever I’m cooking I like to have a contingency plan. So when bottoms burn, tops tip, and sauces sour, plan B in place is a good idea. The Scouts’ motto is “Be Prepared” and for good reason. You never know when the phone will ring and it’s your childs teacher telling you she fell on the playground and the nurse is holding ice on the affected area but… and a whole story about it is told before you realize the rice is burning. Stuff happens! You shut off the flame, skim the good rice off the top and make it into a pudding instead of the bed for your favorite stir fry. Rice can easily be started over or made from an instant package in the pantry in case the other components can’t wait that long for their bed.
When I made a fudge failure once, I turned the mess into some very good brownies by adding some flour, baking powder, and an egg. I’ve had cakes turn out lopsided but corrected them by slicing them through the middle, putting a layer of frosting between and rotating the top layer to balance the load and have a somewhat even top.
There has been chicken left on the grill too long that was peeled of the blackness and made a dandy chicken gumbo. All this is possible by keeping ingredients in the pantry that keep you flexible. The cake pictured is a result of a failed lemon curd.
Even when there is a complete failure, there could always be something with a lightning fast prep and cook time that will save your skin. I was recently taking care of an elderly aunt who had a salt restricted diet and I thought I would add some of the salt free chicken buillion powder to flavor up the half of an eggplant I was cooking for her lunch. The experiment failed terribly! I’ve never tasted anything so bitter and nasty in my life.
My heart goes out to people with that restriction because choices are so limited. Getting used to no salt is a trick. It was one I didn’t know how to fix that day. So I started over completely but quickly. I butterflied and cooked a breast of chicken in the skillet I had just cleaned of the nasty experimental stuff, using olive oil, crushed garlic, and a little paprika. Fortunately I hadn’t cooked the entire eggplant and while the chicken was resting, was able to start over and just cook the other half in the chicken drippings and a little unsalted butter with onion and a few shakes of Mrs. Dash for more flavor. It turned out that she liked it pretty well. I tried it and even though I like to salt the food I eat, it was still quite flavorful. So even though I was not in my own kitchen and had to find a substitute for salt…not a bad ad lib. Diva power to the rescue!